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Buffs Look Solid in Spring Finale

Apr 15, 2006

BOULDER - No, it was not a highlight-reel performance like many expected under New Head Coach Dan Hawkins, but the headman came away pleased with his team's performance in the annual spring game.


            The install phase of the offense is in full tilt, and the players found themselves at a disadvantage against a play-making defense, but the end result?no turnovers and some nice exposure for a lot of young players?made for a successful conclusion to spring football.


            "I thought it was very clean," Hawkins said. "Offensively, we didn't turn the ball over and that's a big deal. But I'm used to scoring a lot of points so when you don't see the ball in the end zone I kind of start ticking a little bit. Fundamentally we did some good things though. We've got something to build on going into the summer we'll continue to get a lot better."


            The first three drives of the game pitted the first-team offense against the second-team defense. The first play of the game saw junior wide receiver Stephone Robinson take a reverse handoff around the right side for a 12-yard gain. Junior quarterback Brian White picked up another dozen yards on a scramble the next play, but the offense was only able to muster three more yards over the next 10 plays, spanning three drives.


            The second-team offense didn't fair much better against the first-team defense, going three-and-out on its first three drives. Junior quarterback Bernard Jackson led the group, although he remains tied with White at No. 1 on the depth chart. 


            During punt return drills, which were interspersed with field goal drills in between drives, Robinson scored the first points of the afternoon, returning a punt 59 yards for a touchdown. Robinson, who also scored in the second half on a six-yard handoff in motion, finished with three rushes for 50 yards and a score. His three punt returns netted 76 yards and another score.


            "(Robinson) is a guy that does a good job with the ball in his hands, and we need to be able to manufacture ways to get the ball to him whether it's screens, reverses, or punt team," Hawkins said. "He's a guy that can run with the football in his hands and we want to give him the opportunity."


            The only other offensive touchdown scored on the afternoon was a five-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to junior fullback Samson Jagoras on the last play of the scrimmage.


            White, who sustained a mild concussion late in the scrimmage, completed 10-of-24 passes for 102 yards. He was also sacked four times. Jackson completed 4-of-8 passes for 28 yards and a touchdown; he also rushed 10 times for 60 yards.


            Jackson was critical of himself afterward, saying he was too quick to make plays with his feet.


            "I scramble too much; that's my problem I think," Jackson said. "I need to be patient within the offense and kind of let things open up and not just resort to running. It's all on me. I'll get that corrected and get it fixed come fall."


            Hawkins was more optimistic about his quarterback's talent and how he can utilize his dual-threat abilities.


            "When people come screaming up in your face and you can run, you run," he said. "That's a blessing that he has?that's a part of his gift and we don't want to deny that to him. Hopefully what will happen over time is our pass protection will improve for him and Brian (White) and he'll have a chance to prove what he can do with his arm."


            Junior wide out Dusty Sprague led all receivers with six catches for 51 yards. Junior tailback Hugh Charles received the bulk of the carries and rushed 10 times for 41 yards.


            "It's always a double-edge sword when you scrimmage yourself because one group usually does well and the other group doesn't do well," Hawkins said. "If the offense comes out and scores 50 points, you go ?what happened to the defense?' If the defense goes out and shuts down the offense, you go ?what's wrong with the offense?'"


            It's doubtful that any of the estimated 6,400 fans on hand were wondering what happened to the defense, as the unit caused three-and-outs on 10 of the 21 drives during the scrimmage?including an impressive nine three-and-outs in 12 first-half drives. 


            "A lot of guys stepped it up individually," said junior linebacker Jordon Dizon, who tied for the lead on defense with seven total tackles. "We had breakdowns, but on defense you can make up for your mistakes, unlike the offense a lot of times. That's what makes defense look great in spring ball."


            Senior defensive end Walter Boye-Doe, who sits atop the depth chart on an injury-plagued line, came up huge during the scrimmage, totaling seven tackles, four quarterback sacks, five tackles for losses and two third down stops.


            "The defense likes to move around a lot so I was able to get in a lot of different positions and make some plays," Boye-Doe said. "Everybody was out there making some great plays."


            Senior defensive end Abraham Wright added six solo tackles and three more quarterback sacks, and sophomore cornerback Gardner McKay led the secondary with three passes broken up.


            In field goal drills, senior place-kicker Mason Crosby connected on 7-of-16 field goals, with a long of 56. He attempted four kicks over 60 yards and one from 70, much to the delight of the crowd; but the swirling wind prevented him from connecting on many impressive kicks, at least to his standards.


"It was for the fans," Hawkins said. "If you can't get the ball in the end zone you have to give the fans something. I want him to break the record (for the longest field goal), so we will give him some opportunities. It's kind of unfair because when the guy goes out there and makes a 48-yarder, everybody goes ?oh, that's a yawner.' But he's just so good."


Crosby also led all punters with four punts for a 50.3-yard average. One punt went for 65 yards, and another bounced inside the 20 and rolled out of bounds at the two-yard line.


After the team gathered in the team auditorium and sang the first post-game fight song of the Hawkins era, the Buffs brought closure to their first spring under their new head coach. They will have almost four months until they return to the practice fields for fall camp.


"We're looking forward to a break for our legs," Dizon said. "We've been going at it for four weeks. Now the emphasis is school."